We’ve all been wondering – or fantasising – about what we would have done if we were in the shoes of the university student who suddenly found R14 million dumped by mistake into her account.
How many of us would not have been tempted – looking at that impossibly fat balance – to have just taken a little bit and spoiled ourselves?
How many others would have literally taken the money and run by moving with it to a country where there are no extradition treaties with South Africa? We hope that most people would have notified someone of the error.
Even if most of us do not have spotless consciences, we would all surely have been aware that the law would catch up with us sooner or later and that we would eventually have to “pay back the money”.
Common law – and common sense – will tell us that no matter how many legal hurdles the rightful owner will have to jump over to get back the money the student spent, holding on to something which belongs to someone else is not right.
Yet, you have to admit that in present-day South Africa, where many things appear upside down – not least of them morality – common sense is not that common.
We have a president who sits immovable and stares down his political opponents and civil society when they want to hold him accountable for everything from wasting taxpayers’ money to corruption – and being part of a pervasive state capture operation.
So, it should not surprise us that the moral compass of a second-year student at the Walter Sisulu University should have had come adrift from its mountings.
The difference between her champagne parties, expensive clothes and cellphones, and Dubai and Nkandla, is only a matter of degree … but at least there will be consequences for her.